DREAM YOURSELF AWAKE
The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“I’d never heard of Belinda Bruce until a week ago, and yet when the record label announces Dream Yourself Awake as a ‘long awaited debut,” I’m inclined to agree — the rootsy, celestial work couldn’t have come too soon. Vancouver’s Bruce sings sweetly and phrases casually on the longing ‘Falling Star’; ‘Twisted Lullaby’, with melodica, chord organ and toy piano, is terrifically orchestrated; and on the sashaying ‘Underground’, a cello, Wurlitzer and banjo take winking bows. Finally, a world awakes to the charms of Belinda Bruce.
Georgia Straight (Vancouver)
“Even if Belinda Bruce’s songs weren’t as good as they are, Dream Yourself Awake would still be worthy of recommendation based on its sound alone. Placing cello and banjo at the forefront, with touches of Wurlitzer, lap steel and xylophone, producers Jon Wood and Bruce have created a disc that is roots-based and familiar yet warmly personal. The living room (literally) production perfectly suits the material, which reflects age-old concerns of love, family and relationships. Bruce has a casual, winning way with a lyric, as in the opening lines to the melancholy ‘Falling Star’: He said ‘I like your body like this/A little tanned, a little skinny, a little undressed’/I said I like your body, too/But I guess this is it for me and you’ The sweet-voiced singer’s melodies are already strong, but bolstered by cellist Christie Staudhammer and multi-instrumentalist Wood, they become even more powerful, particularly in the lilting opener, “Underground”, with its teasing pauses, and ‘Jimtown’ where the stark arrangement adds menace. ‘Patricia Ann’, which combines Bruce at her storytelling best with a great cello hook, is another highlight on a disc that glows brighter with each listen.
Comes With a Smile (UK)
“Here is a woman whose delivery is is variously blessed with the purity of Rosie Thomas, the earthiness of Ruth Minnikin, the soulful intent of Nanci Griffith and the authority of Joni Mitchell…her pipes possess a breathy vulnerability and forceful defiance at once. Dream Yourself Awake is, as arrivals go, not as much audacious as extremely welcome in that female folk or country artists upping the ante are currently on thin ground. And it’s fair to say that delivering a classic as an opening gambit is somewhat upping the ante …one of the contenders for album of the year. Triumphant.”
“With the voice of a songbird, this Vancouver singer is quickly becoming a household name. Working with many accomplished musicians, her latest album Dream Yourself Awake is an astounding labour of love.”
“This Vancouver-based singer-songwriter has been active on the local club and festival scene, and this debut deserves national recognition. It features a nice combination of elements, juxtaposing prominent cello with more traditional roots-associated instrumentation. The result is a sonic fusion of chamber folk and earthier tones. Producer Jon Wood does double duty by taking a prominent role. His instruments range from banjo, lap steel and acoustic guitar to organ, Wurlitzer, xylophone, melodica, drums and toy piano. Another key contributor is cellist and harmony vocalist Christie Staudhammer. Those seeking short, snappy melodies should look elsewhere. Five of the nine tracks here click in at five minutes or more, and it takes a few listens for the tunes to slowly ingratiate themselves. The patience is rewarded by this impressive and impressionistic work.”
Redcat Records (Vancouver)
“Wonderful folky-country from the Gillian Welch school. Belinda Bruce with the able help of partner Jon Wood, has put together an album of lush, orchestral songscapes that waft you along on a silver pillow while offering you bonbons and absinthe.”
“Dream Yourself Awake is a delicate…psychedelic folk outing. The melodies are light and simple and just as dreamy as the album title suggest. Bruce has a commanding presence. Her sweetly unsettling vocals perfectly accent the sparse instrumentation. Bruce…successfully transports us to a dreamy, mystical place, somewhere between a quiet bedroom and a lone star twinkling in the barren night sky.”
THE GOOD LIFE
The Georgia Straight (Vancouver)
“Belinda Bruce’s 2004 debut, Dream Yourself Awake, was a wispy, low-key introduction, full of rootsy lullabies and imbued with a dusky ambiance. The Good Life, her follow-up, is a tougher, more confident album, thanks in part to a band that includes two of the city’s finer multi-instrumentalists – Jane Gowan and Jon Wood – and tracks featuring pop hooks rather than basement-apartment simplicity. That’s certainly true of “Citysong”, a track that begins with honking cars, takes a trip down Main, twirls around a Legion dance floor, and ends with Gowan’s spirited trumpet. Wood’s pedal steel adds countrified pain to the rootsy “Rust”, a sepia-toned waltz also backed by Gowan’s accordion. The rhythm section of bassist Ryen Froggatt and drummer Matt Brain grounds “Careful What You Wish For” and “Heaven Knows”, while the band spins “Blackout” into an atmospheric campfire jam. “Slide”, with the album’s catchiest chorus, is the truest showcase for Bruce’s pop side and perhaps the furthest in style from anything on her debut. The Good Life could be a transitional album, or simply a clear indication of where the singer’s heading. In either case, it’s as yearning, contradictory, and satisfying as the title suggests.
This Vancouver-based songstress turned heads and ears on the domestic folk scene with her 2005 debut, Dream Yourself Awake. This sophomore outing deserves even greater recognition. Her backing band, the Tawny Stars, earn a co-credit here, and they help give the disc a textured, full-bodied feel that keeps things from getting a little too monochromatic and melancholy. The most obvious stylistic reference point for Bruce is surely Lucinda Williams, and lines like, “should we let this love rust and fade, like the beauty of an old car in a junkyard grave?” would fit nicely in a Lucinda song. They come from “Rust,” a mournful epic nicely punctuated by pedal steel and accordion. Other songs explore a world of thrift shops, cheap apartments, blackouts and bruised hearts, and the languid, world-weary feel of Bruce’s vocals bring them to authentic life. …Playing key sonic roles are multi-instrumentalist and mixer Jon Wood (Herald Nix) and bassist/engineer Ryen Froggatt. An excellent effort that further boosts Vancouver’s rep as the most creative roots music scene we have.(Bee-Side)